5 Ways Sellers Can Prepare for a Home Inspection

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David R. Leopold, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspection in Fairfield County, Conn., says home sellers and their real estate professionals have an important role in preparing for a home inspection to help ensure it goes smoothly. Leopold offers up some of the following tips in a recent article in RISMedia, including:

1. Don’t hide what isn’t working: If an appliance isn’t working, leave a note that indicates what isn’t working and how you’re getting it fixed. Don’t try to conceal defects because it can make the inspector start to view you as dishonest and wonder what else you’re hiding.

2. Make things accessible: Ensure the location of the attic and crawlspace are identified and easy to access. Don’t make a home inspector move your belongings in order to gain access.

3. Check the lightbulbs: If a lightbulb isn’t working, the inspector will need to determine if the fixture is inoperable. Save them time by making sure all the lightbulbs in the home operate, including those in the crawlspace, attic, and furnace rooms.

4. Note septic systems: If you have a septic system in the yard, be sure to leave a sketch that includes the location of it. It’ll avoid home inspectors, buyers, and real estate professionals having to conduct prolonged searches for it, Leopold says.

5. Keep appliances clear: Don’t leave dirty laundry in the washing machine or dryer because the inspector will need to test the appliances, and he doesn’t want to have to pull out dirty clothes in front of everybody, Leopold says. “Also, make sure your oven and stovetop are clear and clean, so we can easily test them without setting off the smoke alarm,” he adds.

Source: “Ask the Experts: What Should Home Sellers Do to Prepare for a Home Inspection?” RISMedia (April 16, 2013)

The Essentials Checklist for Newly Married Homeowners

The Essentials Checklist for Newly Married Homeowners

WRITTEN BY REALTY TIMES STAFFPOSTED ONWEDNESDAY, 03 OCTOBER 2018 20:46

The Essentials Checklist for Newly Married Homeowners

After a beautiful wedding celebration and exotic honeymoon, you and your loved one are ready to settle in and enjoy your newly married bliss, especially in a new home. Although putting together a house can seem like an everlasting project, you can make it your home right away with the following new-home essentials.

Drapes

Create a color scheme for your home by starting with your window treatments. The interior-design theme of your home can be a long-term project, and hanging curtains is a great starting point. Colorful curtains and stylish blinds can eliminate a room’s drab aura and create interior warmth, even without other complementary furnishings. Go for eye-catching, rich hues, such as emerald green, indigo blue, canary yellow, or even Pantone’s color of the year, ultra violet.

Bed Coverings

As a newlywed couple, your bedroom is your sacred sanctuary. The relaxing space should be free of electronics and full of tranquil elements and decor reflective of you both as a couple. Start with your bed and gender-neutral bed trimmings, including a duvet, bed skirt, throw pillows and linens. An accessorized bed will create aesthetic comfort as you begin to incorporate more furniture and other decor, such as wall art, a rug, flower-filled vases, and plants.

Cleaning Equipment

Cleaning a house is a monumentally more challenging and exhausting chore than cleaning an apartment. Although more space in a home is enjoyable, you’ve now got more ground to cover with a broom and mop. Invest in a Dyson vacuum that will help keep your floors clean and spotless. Not only will the superior-quality vacuum help give you flawless floors and carpeting, it can make cleaning a pleasant experience, rather than a dreaded household duty.

Toolkit

Since you’re now responsible for your own home repairs and around-the-house tasks, you’ll want a well-stocked supply of tools. ToolGuyd.com provides a list of safety gear and 12 basic tools that every homeowner-turned handyman should own. For unexpected repairs and home DIY projects, you’ll need to start a tool collection that includes, for example, a utility knife, tape measure, a variety of screwdrivers, and adjustable and combination wrenches. Along with the Tool Guyd recommended list of tools, you’ll also want to stock up on paint supplies, sandpaper, an electrical outlet tester, nuts, screws, nails, and sandpaper.

Custom Accents

For most new homeowners, splurging on fancy decor isn’t within the budget. Get creative with how you personalize your home and give it character. Shop at flea markets for photo frames, vases or a vintage piece of furniture that you can refurbish with a bright paint color and fun patterns. Decorate a plain white vase with orange washi tape. Frame an old map to cover bare wall space. Glue metallic buttons to a lamp for glammed-out lighting. DIY decor projects can also become a new hobby and creative outlet for a happy homemaker.

Entertaining Supplies

Enjoying a new home is the most exciting when you can share it with your friends and family. Stock up on party-hosting essentials such as wine and cocktail glasses, a cocktail shaker, a serving platter, place mats, a table runner, and basic dishes and cutlery. Don’t forget to create a soothing playlist for your guests to enjoy during your dinner party. Plan an upcoming housewarming party and play host and hostess by inviting guests and cooking them a delectable dinner.

Renovations to Make Aging at Home Easier

WRITTEN BY CASSANDRA GATTONPOSTED ONMONDAY, 01 OCTOBER 2018 20:21

Renovations to Make Aging at Home Easier

As you or your loved one ages, your home may need to be adapted to accommodate lifestyle changes, accessibility and independence. Over 41% of individuals plan to stay in their own homes until the age of 81 or older. It is important to make gradual adaptations to your home as you age to allow for maneuverability. When remodeling to age at home, start early and plan ahead. It is cheaper to do small renovations one at a time than an entire home overhaul overnight.

Grab Bars

Installing grab bars can significantly decrease falls and injuries. They should be installed where the floor may get wet or transition to a different level. Grab bars should be installed by a professional contractor because they require special reinforcement. If a grab bar is improperly installed it can be pulled from the wall causing injury.

Places grab bars should be installed:

  • showers
  • near toilets
  • stairs
  • room transitions

Home Entry

Access to the main level without the use of stairs is a change you can make to your home without changing the overall curb appeal. This requires planning ahead. A ramp can be designed with wood or concrete that provides a gradual incline to the front door. By planning ahead, you can have a contractor design a ramp that fits the aesthetic of your home without reducing its value. This provides accessibility for wheelchairs, walkers and those who cannot use stairs.

Making Doorways Wider

Increasing the width of doorways is a simple way to make living at home easier with walkers or wheelchairs. Widening a doorway is a project that should only take a contractor about a day. Making a door 36 inches wide as opposed to the normal 24″ or 32″ allows for easier access, especially in tight spaces.

Floorplan Alterations

Creating room for maneuvering is important. There may be times that you need space to use a wheelchair. A wheelchair requires a square five feet to move freely. Creating an open floor plan is a good way to open space to move around. This can be done by removing full and pony walls, creating cased openings, and relocating furniture and appliances to make sure paths are wide and clear.

When aging in your home you may need to restrict living to a single floor to accommodate for the difficulty of climbing and descending stairs. It is important to ensure that there is a kitchen, bathroom and a space for a bedroom on the main level of your home. If there is not a full bathroom on the ground floor, a contractor can create a full bathroom by adding a shower to an existing half bath or creating a new bathroom entirely. According to HomeAdvisor, a laundry room on the main level may even increase the value of your home.

Removing Thresholds

Removing floor thresholds between rooms can prevent tripping, which is the number one cause of injury for aging individuals. Many homes have a threshold between rooms where flooring changes. This can be alleviated by removing the threshold or installing a ramp that lets them move easily.

Shower Conversion

The bathroom can be a dangerous place due to slippery floors and tripping hazards. Even with the help of grab bars and grippy bath mats, it is important to remove tripping hazards. A popular option is to convert a bathtub into a shower without a threshold. This renovation can allow for ease of access especially for those in a wheelchair.

5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make

WRITTEN BY POSTED ONFRIDAY, 14 SEPTEMBER 2018 21:56

5 Mistakes Home Sellers Make

There’s no shortage of advice for home buyers. Getting approved for a mortgage or how to keep on top of a credit report is certainly good advice but there should be just as much attention given to those who are selling their home. After all, home sellers also typically turn around and become home buyers. For most, selling the home means coming up with the necessary funds for a down payment and closing costs. Here are five common mistakes home sellers make.

 

Wrong Price

The first misstep is to price the home wrong. Either too high or too low. Getting the price “just right” means getting the most out of your home while at the same time not pricing it out of the market to the point where very few, if any, potential buyers reach out. If you have some time to sell, you could list your home on the higher side compared to recent sales in your area. If you need to sell quickly, the lower end can help. You should contact a couple of real estate agents and ask for a Comparative Market Analysis.

Flying Solo

Some home owners think they can save a few thousand dollars by selling a home without a real estate agent when in fact it can cost someone thousands of dollars by not using a real estate agent. You simply can’t provide the reach that a licensed real estate professional can. When a home is placed into the local Multiple Listing Service, the home is then available for potential home buyers all across the country and not just your neighborhood. A deeper buyer pool means more offers.

Show Ready

One thing you’ll need to keep on top of is the selling condition of your home. This means both inside your home and out. How’s the curb appeal? When someone first pulls up to your home are they automatically drawn in? Or maybe the lawn needs some work and the shrubbery is a little ragged. Keep the lawn trimmed and free of clutter. Power wash the sidewalk, driveway and front porch. Inside, you also need to de-cluttter. Open up each room by placing bulky furniture into a storage unit. Take down family photos and portraits. When buyers walk into your home they want to be able to visualize it being theirs, and having an instant reminder that it’s not by having family photos all around detracts from that.
Inspection Home buyers are advised to have a potential property inspected to discover anything that needs to be fixed, updated or repaired. But you too should hire an inspector to perform a complete run-down from basement to attic looking for anything that needs your attention. The buyers will order an inspection so you want to know what they’ll discover before they do with their own.

Getting Anxious

Don’t get too anxious and don’t jump at the very first offer. Your sales price will probably be much higher than what you originally paid for it, but take a deep breath when that first offer comes in. Give your agent plenty of time to list your home and hold open houses to gain a wider audience and have some patience. If you accept an offer very early on in the process, you might be costing yourself thousands of dollars and no more offers.

10 Ways to Save Money Around the House

10 Ways to Save Money around the House

Homeowners and renters across the country can save money around their homes using little time and effort. From DIY projects to changing certain habits, everyone can take advantage of some or all of these easy tips.

1. Smart Thermostats

You blast you’re A/C in the summer and crank your heat in the winter all in the name of achieving a comfortable temperature inside your home. A great way to save hundreds throughout the year is to invest in a smart thermostat – no more adjusting your thermostat throughout the day and wasting energy and money.

2. Low-Flow146915011

Wasting water during baths and showers means your money is literally going down the drain. Replacing old and outdated showerheads with new low-flow models could shave upwards of $100 off your annual water bill. Don’t be fooled by the name – most low-flow shower heads still provide excellent water pressure!

3. More is Less

An easy tip that can save you thousands of dollars in the long run is to pay a little extra on your mortgage payment each month. Any additional money you spend above and beyond your normal monthly payment will go directly towards principle and save you tons of money in the long run in interest.

4. Unplug

Even when you’re not using your homes appliances and electronics they’re still using electricity. This phenomenon is known as “phantom power” and can cost you hundreds of dollars annually. By unplugging your appliances, you can save an estimated five to ten percent on your monthly electric bill. If you don’t want the hassle of unplugging, invest in a smart power strip to help reduce your usage.

5. Photosynthesis is your FriendPhotosynthesis

Some people spend hundreds of dollars on air purifiers to reduce allergens in their home when all they actually need to do is buy a plant. Not only do plants remove toxins from the air naturally, they also add a little extra color to a room and make it feel more warm and comfortable.

6. $15 can Save you 15% or More….

For about $15, you can purchase the supplies you need to weatherproof doors and windows and save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. Products can include caulking, felt, and foam tape, so make sure you figure out what your specific home will need.

7. Home Warranty

A home warranty is a great way to save money and protect your budget. In the event one of your home’s major systems or appliances breaks down, a home warranty can help protect you by subsidizing some of the costs associated with getting it repaired or replaced. Learn more about what a home warranty is here.

8. Invest in FansCeiling Fan

Save money in the summer by decreasing your air conditioner usage and use your ceiling fan instead. On average, an air conditioner uses 3,500 watts of energy, while a ceiling fan only uses 60 watts of energy, costing only seven dollars per month to run. Ceiling fans can even be useful during the winter months! Set the fan to run in a clockwise direction which will push warm air down from the ceiling and keep your home warm.

9. Shop from Home

Before you buy new accessories to spruce up your home, look at what you already have and see if there are small tweaks you can make to give your home new life. Rearranging furniture and lighting is a quick and free way to recreate an entire room. Switching decorations between rooms is another free way to make two spaces feel new and different.

10. Washing Without WastingWasher/Dryer

You can save money on your laundry by adopting some simple habits like washing clothes in cold water and not overfilling the dryer to save tons on your energy bills. When it is time to upgrade your washer and dryer, consider investing in energy-efficient units. Not only will they save you money on your bills, but they may qualify you for a tax credit.

LA is getting Obama Boulevard—but what happened to Obama Highway?

State officials still haven’t put up signs

The California legislature last year approved renaming part of the 134 freeway after Obama.
 Michael Gordon | Shutterstock

Rodeo Road will be renamed after President Barack Obama, city leaders decided this week. But it’s not the first roadway in LA that lawmakers agreed to name after the 44th president.

In 2017, the state legislature approved a resolution to designate the stretch of the 134 freeway that runs between Pasadena and Eagle Rock as the President Barack H. Obama Highway.

A year later, however, there’s little evidence of that decision.

There are no signs pointing drivers to the Obama Highway, and Google Maps still labels the segment of the 134 between the 210 and 2 freeways as the Ventura freeway.

That’s because State Sen. Anthony Portantino is still raising money to pay for the new signs, says press secretary Yvonne Vasquez .

Portantino proposed renaming the freeway after Obama in 2016, pointing out that the president used the route in the early 1980s, when traveling to classes as a student at Occidental College.

Part of Portantino’s resolution calling for the name change indicates that the new signs will be paid for through “nonstate” donations. Vasquez says plenty of offers have come in from “all over the country,” but that Portantino is looking for more local funding sources.

Caltrans spokesperson Tim Weisberg told the Eastsider in March that the signs would cost around $5,000 to make and install.

Portantino is planning a fundraiser next month, says Vasquez.

LA residents will also have to wait a while to travel down Obama Boulevard.

The name change was proposed by Councilmember Herb Wesson in honor of Obama’s first campaign rally in Los Angeles, held at Rodeo Road’s Rancho Cienega Recreation Center. But street signs won’t be unveiled until Presidents Day 2019, Wesson spokesperson Vanessa Rodriguez tells the Los Angeles Times.

5 programs for first-time homebuyers in LA

Having trouble coming up with a down payment?

The Los Angeles housing market is not a hospitable one for first-time buyers.

Less than 30 percent of all LA residents can afford a median-priced home, according the California Association of Realtors. It can be even harder for first-time buyers, who don’t have a property they can sell to cover the cost of a down payment.

But plenty of programs exist at the local, state, and federal level to help buyers purchase their first homes—and many of them provide borrowers with help to make those costly down payments.

Home shoppers are probably already aware of resources like the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s FHA loans program, or the VA loans available to U.S. service members and veterans.

But those aren’t the only options. Below is breakdown of five options available specifically to buyers in the LA area.

To take advantage these programs, buyers must also obtain loans from private lenders, so credit limits or other financial restrictions may come into play. But it’s worth investigating these options if homeownership seems just out of reach.


California’s first mortgage programs

The state provides loans to cover closing costs and up to 3.5 percent of a down payment.

The California Housing Finance Agency’s first mortgage program is available to most first-time buyers in California who meet the income limits where they live. In Los Angeles County, borrowers must make under $116,280 (for a one or two-person household) to qualify.

Through the CalPlus and MyHome programs, which are generally paired, buyers who receive conventional home loans from qualified private lenders can then obtain smaller loans from the state agency. These are available to cover closing costs and up to 3.5 percent of a home’s price in down payment assistance.

The smaller loans aren’t factored into monthly mortgage payments; instead, buyers repay them in a lump sum when selling or refinancing their home—or after paying off the entire mortgage.

The maximum price for properties purchased using these loans is $705,000, meaning buyers can get up to $24,675 in down payment assistance.

Los Angeles County’s first home mortgage program

Administered through the Southern California Home Financing Authority, a partnership between Los Angeles and Orange counties, this program is somewhat similar to those offered by the state’s Housing Finance Agency in that borrowers can get financial assistance that goes toward the cost of a down payment.

It’s available to buyers in nearly every part of both counties, with one major exception: the entire city of Los Angeles. That’s bound to be frustrating for many prospective buyers, but hey, there are plenty of nice areas to explore outside the city limits.

To qualify for the program, participants must earn under $116,280 for a one or two-person household, or under $135,660 for a three-person household. Purchases are also capped at $625,764, except in targeted areas where at least 70 percent of residents are considered low-income earners by statewide standards. In these areas, buyers can pay up to $764,823.

The first-time buyer requirement is also lifted in targeted areas, meaning that homeowners in those regions could take advantage of the program to trade up for a larger or more amenity-rich property.

Program participants work with participating lenders to obtain a home loan, which comes with a grant that can be used for down payment and closing costs. The grant, which buyers do not have to pay back, can be up to 4 percent of the total value of the loan.

Los Angeles County homeownership program

This program also provides financial assistance for down payment and closing costs, but the money comes out of a pool of grant funding from the federal government. That means there’s a limit to how many people can participate in the program. The county is accepting just 39 applications between now and March 2019.

Participants, who must earn under $62,000 per year (for a two-person household), can obtain loans up to $75,000 through the program. Interest isn’t charged on those loans and they don’t need to be repaid until after the buyer sells the home or pays off the mortgage.

This program also excludes the city of Los Angeles, along with many of the county’s other large cities. A list of places where participating homebuyers should focus their searches can be found here.

The county has federal grant funding to provide financial assistance for down payments and closing costs to 39 households through March 2019.

City of Los Angeles homebuyer assistance

The city of Los Angeles has two very similar programs for first-time buyers. One is for low-income buyers making under $62,000 per year (for a two-person household). The other is for moderate-income buyers earning under $116,300 (also for a two-person household).

Both programs offer loans up to $60,000 that can be used to cover down payment and closing costs. The low-income loans can only be used on purchases up to $498,750 for single-family homes and $404,700 for condos. There isn’t a maximum purchase price for the moderate income program.

The loans don’t have to be paid off until buyers sell the home or pay off the mortgage, at which time the city will also collect a percentage of the home’s appreciated value, which varies depending on the size of the loan (if the loan amounts to 10 percent of the purchase price, you’ll have to pay back 10 percent of the home’s appreciated value).

The bad news is that loans are only being offered right now to low-income buyers, as the moderate income program is out of funds. Fortunately, the City Council approved an additional $2.3 million for the program in August, which is not yet available but is expected to fund an additional 33 loans to middle-income buyers.

Inglewood homebuyer assistance

The city of Inglewood has also set aside a limited amount of money to help first-time buyers. In August, the city approved $2 million in funding for a program that will provide borrowers with up to $350,000 in financial assistance.

Not only will loans from the city cover a buyer’s down payment, they’ll also significantly lower monthly mortgage costs, making homes significantly more affordable to participating residents (to qualify for the program, participants must have lived in Inglewood for three of the last five years).

The program’s benefits are enticing, but get in line soon—the city estimates that only five or six buyers will be able to get assistance through the program.